In summer 2020, prompted by the Black Lives Matter movement, anti-racist activism, and student organizing in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, the Department of Art & Archaeology formed a Climate & Inclusion Committee. Since then, A&A and the committee have actively evaluated the assumptions and procedures that frame the department’s ethos as well as its broader impact through scholarship and the curriculum. The aim is to ensure that diversity, equity, and inclusion are ever-present and integral - truly woven into the fabric of A&A. The following actions and initiatives are examples of this effort and represent a small fraction of the climate and inclusion work that A&A has undertaken in the past several years.
The Climate & Inclusion Committee, which works in partnership with Princeton’s Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity (OIED), fosters dialogue about equity, diversity, anti-racism, and inclusiveness in the department, and makes recommendations to the department Chair regarding constructive initiatives and actions. The first iteration of the committee (2020–2021) created a substantial draft plan for future initiatives (short, immediate, and long-term) in the areas of admissions, hiring, faculty and student recruitment, department culture, community building, outreach, transparency, and communication. This document has since served as an essential guide for the Chair and subsequent committees.
A&A students have played a pivotal role in defining the department’s approach. Graduate students formed a Graduate Student Working Group on Racism and Racial Justice, and undergraduate A&A majors conducted a series of conversations about race, racism, and racial justice which informed the department’s initiatives. The C&I committee regularly converses with A&A students to discuss their experience in the department. Along with the formation of the committee itself, student ideas have led to several changes in departmental operations. For example, graduate students have been given a voice in the selection of speakers for the department’s annual lecture series, run as part of ART 502, the Graduate Seminar, which enrolls all first- and second-year students. This is the first time in the history of the department that graduate students have played an official role in selecting a speaker for the series. In addition, over the summer and fall of 2021, the chair and the director of graduate studies worked in collaboration with graduate student representatives to review and revise the graduate representative positions to better serve both the graduate students and the department, to emphasize the advocacy role of the positions, and to make expectations more reasonable and transparent.
A&A endeavors to engage race, racism, racial politics, and the politics of difference in the United States and globally through the transformation of its curriculum. Two new courses were created in 2020 in direct response to anti-racist activism at Princeton and beyond. The first, “Rage Against the Machine: Art and Politics in America,” considered intersections between art and politics in the United States, focusing on racial politics and art and activism amid the presidential election, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the resurgence of white supremacy. The second, “Decolonizing Art History,” drew from decolonial paradigms and foundational texts of critical race studies to analyze and actively reconfigure art historical conventions of field formation, research, and format. In addition, the department’s Curriculum Committee and participating instructors have re-examined the department’s core courses: the undergraduate gateway course, ART 100; the undergraduate methods course, ART 400; and the graduate methods course, ART 500. By broadening geography, voices, fields, and perspectives, the committee has made these courses more inclusive and polyvocal. The Graduate Committee has amended departmental language requirements to better reflect the wide-ranging research and expertise of our students and faculty as well as the increasing cultural and geographic expansiveness of the discipline of art history.
The department has also made mentorship a key component of its commitment to fostering a welcoming and supportive climate. In fall 2021, A&A introduced a faculty mentorship program for all assistant and associate professors. In fall 2022, the department funded a new mentorship program for undergraduates. Designed by A&A graduate students Jessica Womack and Joe Bucciero, the program is staffed and run by graduate students and has encouraged the exchange of knowledge among A&A undergraduates and graduate students, creating a greater sense of community among both cohorts. In addition, the A&A director of undergraduate studies has collaborated with the director of the Visual Arts Program to foster stronger connections among the art history, archaeology, and practice of art areas within the A&A concentration.
The department prioritizes open and accessible communication for all members of the A&A community and beyond. To this end, computing support specialist Julie Angarone is a Certified Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies (CPACC) and is leading the department’s effort to make content maximally accessible for all users. In addition, in fall 2020 the chair introduced regular department meetings to which every member of the A&A community is invited. This is the first time in the department’s history that all staff and students have been included in departmental meetings. Meeting times have been shifted from 4:30 to the noon hour, with lunch provided, to support work/life balance.
The A&A administrative and technical staff members and academic professionals formed a reading group that together reads books about diversity, equity, inclusion, racism, and anti-racism. The list of books includes How to Be an Antiracist; Make Your Home Among Strangers; Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning; Nomadland; Moving Up Without Losing Your Way: The Ethical Costs of Upward; The Personal Librarian; and The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration.
A series of conversations took place in A&A in spring 2021, facilitated by Shawn Maxam, that focused on departmental culture and climate and issues of equity and diversity. Each meeting included a particular departmental constituency: faculty, graduate students, undergraduates, administrative and technical staff members, and academic professionals.
In fall 2021, the department conducted a Climate Survey designed and distributed by OIED. A summary of the results was shared with the entire A&A community. Shawn Maxam facilitated an all-department discussion of the results of the survey in February 2022, and the graduate representatives on the C&I committee held a follow-up conversation with A&A graduate students in April 2022. Discussion of the survey is ongoing and will shape climate and inclusion initiatives going forward.
With these dialogues, the department took critical steps toward sustaining a diverse, equitable, and inclusive climate. The dialogue is ongoing. The department values the perspective of every member of the A&A community and welcomes everyone to take part in the conversation.